Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Margins and Statistics

In a recent posting at Econlog, my former student David Henderson writes about "at the margin" and the use of statistics. He's writing about the NCAA basketball tournament but everything he says applies equally to curling (see this, where I become mired in pedantry). David writes:

The economic principal is the idea that the margin matters. Think of how some of the outcomes would have changed had a few little things changed. I'm thinking, for example, of the close University of Arizona game against U Conn. (U Conn won 65-63.) What if Arizona's star, Derrick Williams, hadn't been called for just one touch foul? Then he would have been on the floor longer and Arizona might have won. Or, in some of the other games, what if two of a team's 3-point attempts had been a few inches shorter or longer and gone in? Again a different outcome. Margins can matter a lot. [EE: or in curling think how often an eighth of an inch one way or another affects the outcome]

And the statistical principle, which is related to the above, is how much randomness there is. One team can be a little off its game for most of a half and, although it is a better team generally than the team it's playing against, this can make a difference. There's always randomness. So much that happens in the world is random. So the moral of the story is that the degree of certainty otherwise-intelligent people have about their bracket choices is just not justified.

A related moral is that when you play a lot of games and win enough to get to be one of the 20 or so top picks in the choice of 68 teams, you've done a good job. What happens from then on is a mix of skill and randomness.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Alan and Doc at the Ford Worlds in Regina

That's right!

Alan and I will be covering the 2011 Ford Men's World Curling Championship from Regina, Saskatchewan next week. We'll miss a few draws because of our respective day jobs, but we will be there for most of it.

I'm told that curling is the official sport of the Province of Saskatchewan, and that we should anticipate huge turnouts at the games (especially during draws in which Canada [Stoughton] is playing).

From 2006, when Alan and I covered the Scott Tournament of Hearts in London:

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Now That I Have Settled Down

I unabashedly cheer for the Canadian teams at the world curling championships; I am what is known in some circles as a "homer" (I cheer for my home team, not for the home team of the venue.). Alan, I think, is both more objective than I am and more cosmopolitan.

But let's face it, that gold medal game, while exciting and close, was pretty poor curling for both teams. Not only were there numerous misses and partial misses, as we described throughout the match, but numerically both teams curled poorly, too (Canada 74%, Sweden 70%, both well below their averages going into the final match). And we can't lay Canada's loss all on what happened in the 10th end. After all, there were two times (6th and 8th ends) when misses and near misses meant Canada scored only one instead of two with the hammer.

One of the reasons for such poor curling was likely that so many of the players had not been in the finals of the worlds before (though that hardly explains Norberg's unusual calls at times). Also, it seemed maybe the ice was variable and changed over time. Let's hope these are part of the explanations. If they are, then we can look for these teams to do better next year when the Women's Worlds will be in Canada.

Norberg's team pulled it out. Team Canada didn't quite make it after a fairy tale run to the finals from the tie-breaker.

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Gold Medal Game, Canada vs. Sweden: Conclusion

I wrote so much about the 9th end, I decided to split the postings again.

Canada has an advantage coming home. The score is tied and Canada has the last rock. I expect them to play this last end wide open, if possible, to leave an easy hit and stick or draw for Holland with her last rock. So here we go:

End #10: Certainly not a standard opening. Very long guard from Sweden, and Canada tries to draw around it, leaving it short of the rings. Kalenchuk's second shot is a good draw to the top 4'.

Now Canada goes after the guards, but leaves a long corner and jams. And Tammy Schneider flashes on her next shot. Big advantage for Sweden now, but to everyone's amazement, Norberg essentially peels a guard. Then Kim Schneider jams and removes a Canadian rock from the rings.

There are two Swedish rocks in the rings and three Swedish guards. So many mistakes by Canada. Are the wheels falling off?

Skips' stones: Norberg guards their shot rock in the top 4'. Holland removes one guard and moves another one into the rings, leaving the draw path open. Norberg tries another guard, but leaves a good-sized port for Holland. She needs to draw to the 4' for the win but she's light, so Sweden wins.

A tough loss for Canada with all the missed shots in the last end, but a good steal for Sweden.

Sweden 7, Canada 5 for the gold.

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Gold Medal Game, Canada vs. Sweden: 9th End

So in both the 6th and the 8th ends, Holland has missed her shots slightly and ended up taking only one. These are big misses. Sweden has the hammer in the 9th end and will likely attempt to blank it. Let's see how it unfolds.

End #9: For some reason, it doesn't look as if Sweden is trying to blank, but Canada ends up with two guards near the centre line. Norberg can't try to double them off (free guard zone rule), but instead asks the lead to draw around them. The draw is to the back 4', so Tammy Schneider tries to freeze to it, but bumps it back a few inches. Carlsson's first shot is wide and a bit heavy, drifting to the back 12'. Tammy Schneider tries to nose freeze to her own rock in the top 4', but leaves a double possibility for Carlsson, but she jams. That shot could have really turned the end in Sweden's favour.

Now it's Kim Schneider's turn to try to freeze, but is a tad light. Canada has a rock on the button, Sweden is 2nd shot top 4', and Canada is almost with it. Ostlund tries a run back, but sort of misses, leaving Canada with two shots biting the button. I'm not quite sure why Holland wouldn't freeze to their own rock that is on the back of the button. Schneider likes that option, too, but Russ prefers a guard. They go for the freeze attempt; Russ says it must be perfect or the end is lost. It looks pretty good, but not completely locked in there. Canada is lying three.

Ostlund throws some heat, removing the back Canada rock and moving another to the side 8'. Rather than remove the Swedish rock, Holland freezes to it, making it really hard for Norberg to remove the Canadian shot rock. Norberg rattles the rocks gently, but leaves a hit and stick for four by Holland, which will make life pretty difficult for Sweden. But the shooter rolls over a bit, so Norberg has a straight draw to the button (with backing) to salvage one.

Canada 5, Sweden 5

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Gold Medal Game, Canada vs Sweden - Ends 7 and 8.

This is turning into a stunningly good final!
Which does not mean all the shots are good.

END #7
: This end was not in your chess curling opening book. Weirdly, all of the play has been out in the twelve-foot, 9 o'clock from the hack. Holland is the first to roll into the center. Norberg's shooter rolls out on her first shot. Norberg repeats her first end mistake and stays.
CAN 4 - SWE 4

END#8
: Russ Howard calls the Swedish play a 'veteran move'. The are in thouse behind thrie guard and Canada has a shot in th house behind a corner guard. Tammy Schneider blasts the SWE guards away. SWE reinsert one very nicely. Tammy leaves SWE lying one but Canada has all the rocks out front. SWE get one to the front but barely.
Kim Schneider makes a great runback into cover. SWE wreck on guards. Kim S draws into the house and Canada lie two. Norberg, utterly brilliantly, with no sweeping, freezes onto it, though Canada remains shot. Holland comes up short on her attempt to do the same. Norberg blocks that path. Holland tries a double-tap, and almost make it! Insane, and in the end ineffective.
CAN 5 - SWE 4

Over to Doc

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Gold Medal Game, Canada vs. Sweden:
End 6

Centre top 4' and centre to 12' for Sweden, a standard opening, as Canada puts up a corner guard. Perhaps, following up on Alan's suggestion, we can refer to this as the "standard-centre-corner" opening, but that's almost too many words to make it useful. But eventually we could maybe abbreviate it SCC opening. Fun to contemplate.

Perfect freeze by Kim Schneider (3rd, Canada) to a Swedish rock in the back 4'. Ostlund hits it and drives the backing out of the rings, rolling her shooter to the side. Norberg hits but rolls a bit, leaving a draw for Holland to lie two, but one is behind the t-line. Norberg chooses to try a hit-and-roll rather than a freeze to the back rock as a way to force Canada to take only one. But she stays open, leaving a hit for two, but her shooter rolls too far, and Canada scores only one. A serious miss.
Canada 4, Sweden 3.

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Gold Medal Game, Canada vs. Sweden:
Intermission

Just to make clear: I see the statistics for the players and teams as indicative but not compelling. In stat-speak, and something I tried to say differently in my earlier postings, there's a pretty big variance around the averages, meaning pretty much anything can happen in any game or end. As I said, the stats are indicative of what might happen, and obviously I love looking at the stats, but the variance is just too high to have much confidence in using the stats to make predictions. In stat speak, the confidence intervals are pretty large.

Let me also note that the statistics for this game are consistent with the observations that Alan and I have been making. There seemed to have been a lot of misses, and the curling percentages are 68% for Sweden, and 71% for Canada. Both leads are curling only in the 70s, and the middles are all in the 60s!

So after all the action so far, Canada and Sweden are tied, but now Canada has the hammer.

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Gold Medal Game, Canada vs. Sweden:
End 5

That split by Holland with her first rock in the fourth end was very impressive, rolling both rocks behind cover. As Alan said, "utterly brilliant".

End #5: Linda Moore, one of the commenters for TSN, suggests that after giving up three last end, Sweden might want to play this end open, and it looks as if that is what is going on, at least at first. Canada has one top 4' and a long centre guard, and Sweden has an even longer corner guard. As the end progresses, Swedish guards are mounting up while Canada has two even rocks in the top of the house, top 4' and at 10 o'clock in the 8'. Every time Sweden tries a run back, they seem just to move the Canada rocks over to the 10 o'clock position. Schneider puts a rock right at the upper left top4' and Canada lies three. Ostlund wrecks on the guard (Linda Moore thinks her rock might have picked on something). Holland decides to put up a long centre guard to block that hole left by Ostlund; it is really long. Norberg removes one of the side Canada rocks in the rings, leaving Canada lying two. Holland hits the Swedish rock in the rings, but loses her shooter, leaving the door open for Norberg to draw or hit/flop for one. She hits/flops for one.
Canada 3, Sweden 3

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Gold Medal Game, Canada vs Sweden - Ends 3 and 4.

I am less sold than Doc on statistical anlyses (hey I am a mathematician and Doc is an economist but I also think this should be close). The first two ends have sure lived up to this, as Norberg took a one she did not want and Canada blanked.

END #3: I wish I knew how to describe these opening patterns as they do in Chess. I could say this is the Alberta opening, or the like, as there really a)re few of them being used now. Much is, of course, in the execution, unlike in the more binary chess.
SWE center guard, CAN bump it rather than go around (what they meant). SWE put another on top of theirs. CAN hit their own and put a SWE rock into the twelve-foot wide. (9 o'clock looking into the house from the hack.) SWE toss another rock into the house, and they now lie three. CAN remove one, I am not sure why. SWE draw attempt crashes and sits as another front biter. CAN punch it out. SWE punch it out! Kim Schneider's first shot does little. SWE is the first team to come by the center guards and Oestlund puts a covered rock on the button. CAN clears the guards, but SWE still sits three. Norberg puts up a beautiful guard, center line in front of the house. Holland makes what she wanted, a runback, clearing the house, but it leaves her shooter as a center guard. Norberg brilliantly draws to the feight-foot. Holland, always chipper, says, "All righty". Her draw misses very slightly and Sweden steal one.
SWE 2 - CAN 0

END #4: Tammy Schneider misses on a major hit and Sweden pile up rocks in the house. For some reason I do not remotely get the coach comes out. Like, why would you twenty-somethings question Norberg? And so after such long discussion they just wreck on a guard. Tammy Schneider at least makes it into the house but rolls out. SWE then come up ridiculously short. What is going on? Kim Schneider gets a rock into the house. SWE runback attempt leaves CAN rock lying one, and no SWE rocks in the house, This end is a comedy of errors. CAN draw comes up way short, as the errors continue. Norberg plays safe, hitting the Canada rock, losing the shooter. Holland makes an utterly brilliant split and now Canada lie two, with both rocks buried. Really incredibly good! Norberg misses utterly on her attempt to clean things up and now Holland has free shopping for three. Which she takes.
CAN 3 - SWE 2

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Gold Medal Game, Canada vs. Sweden:
Ends 1 and 2

As I wrote in the previous post, this game should be a close one. Canada has exhibited some statistical advantages and so has Sweden. So here we go:

End #1: Kalenchuk's [lead, Canada] first rock drifts to the back of the rings, which puts Canada at a slight disadvantage. Carlsson [2nd, Sweden] doubles off two Canadian rocks in the rings. That is followed by a series of hit-and-sticks as both teams try to hit and roll behind the centre-line guard, but none can quite get behind cover. Holland's shooter rolls out on her first shot, allowing Norberg [skip, Sweden] an opportunity to draw around the centre-line guard, but is left partially open as that side of the ice seems quite straight. Holland's last shot removes the Swedish stone, and her shooter is barely biting at the back. Norberg hits but rolls into the rings and takes one.
Canada 0, Sweden 1

End #2:
Canada's initial corner guard is long, Sweden rocks are lined up just off the centre-line, and Canada removes one while moving the other off the centre. After some peels, Sweden is left with one rock in the rings and no guards. A continuing series of guard/peel. Oslund [3rd, Sweden] leaves the rings with just one Swedish rock and no guards, so there will be a series of hit-and-stick, with Canada trying to blank the end. And does.
Canada 0, Sweden 1

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Strengths and Weaknesses Going into the Gold Medal Round

The gold medal round (i.e. the finals) of the 2011 Women's World Curling Championships will be played between Canada and Sweden at 9am Sunday EDT (7am CST: Saskatchewan refuses to go on DST!). The curling stats for the players for Sweden and Canada are here.

The overall averages for each player for the entire round robin and the play-offs have been:

Lead: Canada 88, Sweden 78
2nd : Canada 78, Sweden 78
3rd : Canada 80, Sweden 79
Skip: Canada 81, Sweden 75

Based on these numbers for the tournament, it looks as if Canada has a slight edge (actually substantial at lead) going into the final game. Also, we know that Sweden barely edged Canada by only one point during the round robin.

At the same time, however, we have all seen players for both teams, especially Canada (since that's who we have seen on tv most often), put in highly variable performances. Every player for Sweden, along with Amber Holland and the two Schneiders for Canada had games when they curled as low as in the 60s (Norberg and both thirds even had one game each in which they curled in the 50s!). So while these overall averages are indicative, they are far from compelling. Who wins the gold medal will depend not only on who is curling well tomorrow, but it will also depend on strategy and at what point in the game the good and less-good shots are made.

[ Addendum: this point is amply supported by the fact that even though Canada had higher curling percentages, and Canada gave up the fewest steals and took the most steals, at the same time Sweden had the highest percentage of scoring two or more points with the hammer and also had the highest percentage of forcing opponents with the hammer to score only one point. And, of course, Sweden won more games in the round robin.]

What the statistics really seem to show is that the teams look as if they are pretty evenly matched. That should make for a fun and exciting morning tomorrow.

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World Women's Sponsorship

I have detected so far only three sponsors of the World Women's Championships this year.
One is the obvious Capital One, whose website URL sits on the ice. They are a financial organization; I am not sure of all that they do but the customer-facing part is clearly credit cards.
Another one is Titlis Rotair, which mystified me. It turns out it is Swiss Tourism at work. I noticed today that the baffles they put at the ends of the ice had Titlis' logo with what seemed to be Mandarin; this makes utter sense.
The other logo seen everywhere is the 361 degrees. The site appears to be Chinese; I have no idea.
There are a bunch of other minor sponsors, but this goes a long way to explaining why the web site is so bad. (Though to its credit it does cite the various local sponsors.)
In the end there is no real money behind this championship.

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Semi-Final, Canada and China, second half

China took one in the sixth, so we enter the seventh with Canada ahead 4-3.

END #7: Holland asks Kim Schneider to bury in the house. She gets nicely behind cover, is a bit deep (top four-foot so not bad at all). Betty follows Kim in for a freeze, but bounces open instead. Holland hits and rolls away nicely. Betty does manage to come in on top of the Schneider rock. Holland draws to the button for two!
CAN 6 - CHI 3.

END #8: Betty is clearly shoutinbg "Hurry!". This end is a comedy of errors, with whiffs, and shots that are short and off-line. In the end it all cancels out and China blank.

END #9: A bad Kin Schneider miss leaves China sitting one, but they whiff. On her second chance, Schneider clears away the Chinese rock. Holland hits and stays in the front twelve-foot on the open side. Betty draws nicely into the four-foot. Holland's runback misses. Betty's draw needs a lot of sweeping help but makes it.
CAN 6 - CHI 5

END #10: Just a general comment - Kalenchuk has been amazing the last couple of games. She just did a perfect tick on a China guard. And later Tammy Schneider, struggling much of the day with such shots, hits a perfect double peel. It has been mostly a guard and peel exercise, with the peels finally prevailing. Betty makes a great draw to the back four-foot behind a Canadian rock. Holland runs Kelenchuk's first(!) rock onto Betty's, with both removed and the shooter staying. Betty makes another great draw behind that shooter. Holland hits to win.

Canada moves to tomorrow morning(here)'s final against Sweden.

To be honest, I am astonished. I never expected them to get here. And I love it, less because I am Canadian than because I like the sunny personality she has shown throughout. My guess is also that Betty is pretty sunny (given that she told TSN they could call her Betty) but I have not seen so much of it.

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An Amusing Condescesion

I love the team of Linda Moore and Russ Howard, but they seem to me awfully funny when talking about the Chinese curlers.
They keep talking about how they are getting better and learning strategy and then point out that they are the winningest team in the World Championships since 2005.
Maybe everybody else should be learning strategy from them?

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Semi-Final: Canada and China, first half

Geez, I was distracted and missed the first two ends. China scored two with the hammer in the first end, and Canada blanked the 2nd end. Canada has survived so many close, tough situations, and was very lucky there was one big miss by China in their game in the Round Robin, enabling Canada to win that game.

It must be tough to go back out to play so soon after an 11 end game won by a steal of three against Denmark.

As I wrote to Ms. Eclectic at the beginning of the week, I watched the Canadian team in their path to victory in the Saskatchewan play-downs. They struggled early on, but eked out the victory over that week. It looks as if they're following a similar pattern at the Worlds.

End #3: For all her misses this week, Kim Schneider made a fantastic hit, flop, freeze with her first shot, but her second shot came up short. China peels that rock. China peeled Holland's rock, leaving Holland with a nose tap to score two, but it didn't curl enough, and she lost the shooter, scoring only 1. China 2, Canada 1

End #4: The end seems to involve lots of sort-of misses. Tammy Schneider hits, but doesn't roll behind a guard, China misses a couple of shots, Canada misses setting up a guard. The curling percentages must not be great this end. Betty [see the 2nd comment] (Ch Skip) tried a double that jammed, so Holland (Cda Skip) put up a guard, protecting shot rock. Betty is forced to choose between drawing to the button for one or drawing through a small-ish port to hit for two. She opts for the latter. She made it through the port, but her shooter rolled out too far and the Canada rock remained shot for a steal of one. China 2, Canada 2

End #5:
China retains the hammer for this end and chooses to play it wide-open. No guards, lots of hit/stick shots. It looks as if China is taking the end to regroup and recover emotionally from the steal, but that seems like an overly dramatic take on their choice, so I can't believe it's right. But suddenly things change dramatically Nice draw into the rings by China's 3rd, well behind guards. But after Kim Schneider barely makes it to shot, China's 3rd rubbed on a guard, leaving Canada shot and behind cover. Holland tries a tap back but splits Canada's rocks to lie 1-2. Betty wrecks on a guard. Holland guards against a double tap, but leaves a slight hole for Betty to try to draw through. She does but is too heavy and Canada steals two more!
China 2, Canada 4



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World Women's Page 3-4

I wakened somewhere in the fifth end and am slowly coming to consciousness.
I saw Canada steal one for the lead in the fifth and Lene Nielsen just drew beautifully for the lead by one in the sixth end.

Amber Holland always seems so jolly.

END #7: CAN blank.
DEN 5 CAN 4

END #8: From early in the end Canada has two rocks in the house, open, hoping to avoid doubles. DEN not only miss their chances but keep offering more. Holland's first rock just barely makes the house. Nielsen leaves a hit and stay for Holland. They stick for two.
CAN 6 DEN 5

END #9: Nielsen leaves her first rock open; Holland hits and rolls almost into cover. Not enough - Nielsen makes a beautiful shot to get two.
DEN 7 CAN 6

END #10: I love Canadian locutions. "I'm not sure I like the draw", which means "Draw - no way", and "It's not awful", which means "Let's do that". Which turned out to be a bad idea. It turns out the not awful shot was awful and now Sweden sit two. Holland's first shot is a disaster, replacing a center guard with her own rock out in th path she needs to get to extra ends. Holland's desperate final shot goes to a measure. Extra end!

END #11: I wish I knew how to describe this last end. It was really weird and really great. Canada's skip without the hammer is throwing guards you know things are strange. Lene Nielsen needs genius or luck to prevail here on her last shot. She needs some bizarre angle raise. And when you have NOTHING else, you do that, perhaps on uncharted ice. The raise misses and Canad wins.

Yet another utterly enjoyable match for spectators.

Canada plays China in under two hours.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Women's Worlds, Page 1-2 - Last Half

I must say I like both these teams. There have been very few total misses, and a lot of shots with VERY ambitious goals, mostly settling for something slightly less. But the score shows how good it has been so far.

Interesting fact put up on screen. Since 2005 the skips with the most World's wins are Betty and Norberg, in that order (51 vs 49).

END #6: Norberg hogs her last shot. Ouch. Steal of two for China.
CHI 4 - SWE 2.

That is really too bad. But given it is the Page 1-2, the loser will be back tomorrow! (That is the part of the Page 1-2 I like, though I also do not like it. :-) )

Linda wonders if she has ever seen Norberg have a hogline violation, especially on a hit.

END #7: Late in the end SSWE have three rocks in the four-foot. First crack at it CHI remove only one and it gets refreshed. Betty wrecks on guards with her first rock. The wreck has spread the guards a bit, so Norberg's guard effort come deep and into the four-foot, where there are now four SWE rocks. Betty goes nuclear on that rock and leaves SWE lying two. Norberg draws perfectly for her three.
SWE 5 - CHI 4

Great match.

END #8: SWE force China to take one, but she rolls too far on her hit and give Sweden a steal of one.
SWE 6 - CHI 4.

END #9: Betty gets her two.
CHI 6 - SWE 6.

END #10: SWE start with a perfect tick (which would not be in Canada). Then I missed many shots. CHI make a mistake that lets Oestlund clear the house of all rocks. Betty's only hope is to get behind Swedish guards out front. First shot does not curl so much as wanted, but 'virtually buried' says Russ Howard. Norberg hits it and loses the shooter. Betty goes to the back of the eight-foot. Norberg hits it!
SWE 7 - CHI 6

We'll see Sweden on Sunday and CHina tomorrow!

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A Reason to Appreciate Annette Norberg Rinks

In case you had forgotten.
Talk about rocks!

"Hearts on Fire, Hearts on Fire, Burning, Burning with Desire, Burning for the Steal". Too cool.

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Women's World's Page 1-2 - Early Ends

This should be fun, pitting two of the best-known women's teams in the world against one another (much better known than our Canadian representative, for example).
On one side we have Sweden's Annette Norberg rink, whose teams we have long known, not with the team we are used to, but she is still here. On the other China, who barely missed finishing 11-0; Russ Howard points out that they have stunningly good technique, and this should fit in with our stereotypical perceptions (it does with mine). The Chinese skip told TSN they could call her Betty, and I will follow that lead!
The nice story is that after her team disbanded. satisfied with their laurels, Norberg was invited by a young team that had lost one member. invited Norberg to skip for them. And here they are!

END #1: Omigod. Maybe it is just a bit fluky but the first four Chinese shots look perfect to me. (The scorers agree but Sweden is stepping up, and a China roll is not quite perfect. And a guard wreck. On first skip rock, Betty makes a great double. Norberg misses, hits and rolls out. Betty hits and rolls into the center and Norberg hits but the shooter sticks so she takes one.
SWE 1 - CHI 0

END #2: I just heard 'Hurry!' (emphasis on the second syllable)from Betty. Clearly coached by an old-timer. Late in the end mostly an exchange of hit and stays and hit and mild rolls. Betty clears the front of the house again with a double. Norberg throws a rock through an empty house, I suspect not deliberately. Betty does it deliberately.
SWE 1 - CHI 0

END #3: SWE third gets a fluky good result, with a front SWE rock guarding one now in the back eight-foot. CHI third clears the front rock, but miss the double. Norberg hits the remaining CHI rock and sticks to have two rocks in the house, widely separated. Betty just misses the double. Norberg splits the rings with her last rock. Betty hits and stays for her one.
SWE 1 - CHI 1

END #4: (Inappropriate comment: I really like the Swedish second's floral headband.) (And side comment: Betty does say 'Hurry, but I have heard it only once, and I suspect she just relies on Whoa and Yes unless she really feels the stress.) After a lot of pretty good shots, none quite what was wanted, Norberg makes a perfect hit and roll to center to take the one that was her best option.
SWE 2 - CHI 1

END #5: Early in the end China chooses a freeze over an easy double; it does not quite freeze but both Russ and Linda point out that Betty has learnt a lot about tactics with this choice. SWE surgically remove the shot through the gap between their own - very nice. After an exchange of hits and stays and hits and rolls, CHI miss a freeze. Norberg bumps off that rock in an attempted freeze. CHI wreck on a guard in their attempt to sit in a pocket. SWE hit and stay. CHI take one.
SWE 2 - CHI 2.

On to a new post for the rest.

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TieBreaker Final Ends

END #7: To my astonishment I look up and see a house that is clearly the result of aggressive play by CAN. SUI clear out all the CAN stones and have a bunch sitting in the house. Kim Schneider cleans up a bit. Ott's first rock leaves CAN with a hit and stay to lie two, as they do. Ott's last rock hits and rolls way too far, leaving Holland an open draw to the eight-foot for two. She makes it but nearly goes long, rubbing on one of her own rocks to slow the shooter enough.
CAN 7 - SUI 3

END #8: After putting opening rocks into the house, CAN is back to peeling merrily. Holland's first shot misses a vital chip shot. Ott hits and stays to sit three. Holland needs a double to keep the end under some control. A miss makes four possible for SUI. She gets one but rolls away, leaving SUI an open draw for three. Which Ott makes. This game is on again!

Russ Howard observes that if CAN win this, the Holland rink will have won nine straight sudden-death games, combining the Saskatchewan playdowns, the Scotties, and this tournament.

END #9: Holland doubles and stays on her first rock. Her rock is alone in the house. CAN blanks.
CAN 7 - SUI 6

As a side observation I note that I have not heard the word 'Hurry' this whole match. Holland and Schneider call like the men at the Brier, and I don't know Schweizerdeutsch well enough to know how Ott and Schaefer call.

END #10
: CAN miss an early tick attempt, leaving two SUI center guards. One CAN rock in the house (front four, covered). SUI freeze attempt bounces to the side and open, lying shot. CAN peel the front guard. SUI puts up another guard. CAN peel both guards. SUI guard their rock, but it comes pretty deep and CAN try a double. Instead they remove their own rock and roll out. Big problem now! SUI put up a second guard. Schneider gets the front two and stays out in front. SUI rock in the house is now open. SUI guard. Holland peels it and in the process also removes her own guard on the other side, opening that path. SUI coach comes out. Ott's biter guard attempt comes up well short, leaving Holland a draw to the four-foot (it has to get decently in there) for one. And it is on the button.
CAN 8 - SUI 6

Canada advance to the 3-4 Page playoff tomorrow.

Rule changes are funny. Almost every team calls 'Time Out', even though the rule has been changed and consultation with the coach is on the clock.

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TieBreaker

Well, I am inferring that the TSN coverage at the moment is live, as it synchronizes well with the on-line scoring (which is working quite well this morning). I had in part of my brain a notion that TSN had paid the organizers not to post the online scores, but it would be too much hard work to be synchronizing them now. :-)

First end is wide open and blanked by Canada.

In the second end some Canada misses let SUI populate the house. As Ott buries her first rock, Holland makes a perfect runback. Ott comes up light and CAN has a draw to the four-foot around a center guard for two. The draw gets a piece of the button.
CAN 2 - SUI 0

The third end is formed by the fact that the first Swiss rock does not make the hog line, depriving SUI of the planned corner guard, and CAN plays offensively. A later guarding error lets SUI clean up the house and sit on top of a CAN stone. A CAN freeze attempt on the pair bounces to the side. SUI remove that and sit. CAN do the same, but leave SUI a chance to move the rocks around, removing Canada's shot rock. Canada bumps the SUI shot out and rolls behind (Swiss) cover, leaving OTT a possible double. She misses and give CAN a steal of one.
CAN 3 - SUI 0

The fourth end is a war of draws and hit and rolls, leaving a lot of rocks in the house. By the first skip rock, SUI have a rock on the button, and lie two. Holland decides to freeze to the shot rock, with characteristic aggression. The freeze bumps and buries the SUI rock, with the shooter lying open. SUI leave Holland a double. She gets one and the shooter lies somewhat open. Ott needs a very delicate shot to score two. Her nose hit gets her the two.

The fifth end featured a nice display of personality. Amber Holland and Kim Schneider in the house discussing the next shot, and the front end calls out to point out one of the SUI rocks. Holland snapped back something to the effect of "Yes, I have it". Ott NEEDS a big draw to stop CAN from scoring a million. It runs long, leaving CAN a shot at three. They get two.
CAN 5 - SUI 2.

Canada move to a prevent defence in six, peeling merrily and keeping the house fairly clean. A CAN rock goes deep and bites at the back, and it's hard to tell if it is second shot. Ott is planning to hit and stay possibly for one. They take one (erasing the doubt about the second shot by running back onto their own rock.
CAN 5 - SUI 3.

Moving to a new post.

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Great News!?

I see no scores on the Women's Worlds site, which I take as evidence that the 9am telecast from TSN will be live. Their schedule of play still asserts that if one tiebreaker is needed it will happen at 9am local time.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Update from the Women's World's

After the useless tournament site was unreachable for a couple of hours, I finally got it all to come up and discovered that of the three teams at 7-4, Denmark moves to the 3-4 Page Playoff (the one that is not kissing your sister), and Canada has to play a tiebreaker with Switzerland (good for Ott!).
You discover that on one page.
Searching for another page, you find this match will be one of those early morning hour matches for us. So I will set my watch for 4am, after confirming that TSN intends to carry it. I assume they will, though my assumptions are oft violated.
I assume Page 1-2 Playoff (kissing your sister) will be at 2pm Eastern time and could be interesting, Sweden versus China.
Overall an interesting tournament, for all the frustration of trying to watch it.

Now this is interesting. I decided to check TSN's site; they will show the tiebreaker at 9am. This creates a very interesting problem for me; should I get up to try to access the useless website? Or maybe I can follow the match on the site suggested in comments to a previous post.

The championship site is clear that if there is only one tiebreaker it is at 9am CET. Damn.

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Women's World's Continues to be Remarkable

Canada has at least made continuing life, as Amber Holland survived her early losses, and fought her way through at least to living beyond the round-robin.
There may or may not be a tiebreaker, and this depends on this afternoon's (Eastern time) play.
In Russia-Denmark, both teams have the ability to continue. In Switzerland-Norway, Switzerland might prevail and join the tiebreakers.
In a few hours I will try to watch the scores on the almost useless site from the World's and hope to see what happens.

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Raise a Pint to Curlcast!

Partly because of the feckless approach TSN has chosen to take to the Women's World Championships, I have found myself trying to use the Women's World Curling Championship site to follow the activity.
And I thought TSN was feckless! After some really good experiences relying on the Scotties and Brier websites, I am appalled at how bad the above site was.
It frequently timed out or reset connections for no reason I could discern. Its layout is just stupid; on the Canadian sites, the current leaderboard is replicated or easily available on almost all the scoring-related sites. Not on the above site. In fact once you navigate past the main page it gets hard to find the leaderboard.
And the most appalling! And most important. The live scoring system was horridly unreliable - it is the site you can be most certain, late in a draw and late in a match that you worry about, and it is sure to become unavailable. It either just does not show up or tosses connection resets in arbitrary ways.
This system is reported to be run by www.curlingresults.de. I have no idea whether the problems were theirs or the overall site's, but it made the system utterly unusable many times.
Contrast this to CurlCast, which you can see here in action at a championship in Canada, and I bet you will see an immediate difference. The layout is logical, and the partitioning they pick works because it is generally pretty reliable.
My guess is we have some historical differences here. CurlCast was not so great in its first incarnations, though its mere existence was great. The Euro version has to be a lot better in its initial incarnation exposed to Canadians to be acceptable. CurlCast has benefited from years of users complaining, and their responsive improvement, but why cannot the Euros learn from this. Are their licensing, or fee, or local government restriction, issues that stand in the way of propagating growing excellence?
BTW - one question I had about CurlCast was why they were rather slow to update some numbers; at the Brier I found out why, and my guess is the restriction will not last long. They keep learning.
And also BTW - I asked a question of the CurlCast team about some numbers that seemed illogical to me - why in one match Craig Savill had been scored 18 shots in a match while Brent Laing had been scored for 20. This seemed pretty illogical to this unthinking mathematician as Laing's shots follow Savill's. My guess is a curler, thinking about the question for a few seconds, would realize what was in the response I got not ten minutes later: Savill threw his rocks in the tenth end through the house, and Laing actually had to make a play, and the scoring system does not assign a score, sensibly, to throwing a rock through the house. I was impressed - the CurlCast team is on the job.
I have not bothered to raise a complaint directly to the Euros, as I am not sure who would be the target. But they should find a way to get less than four or five years behind Canada.
To the degree to which the CCA has helped CurlCast so improve, another pint!
And let us hope and assume in Regina we have Canadian standards!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

A Remarkable Tournament

The Women's Worlds are pretty amazing to me.
At this point all teams have played five matches and nobody is undefeated, and Canada, down 2-3, is not particularly feckless.
Sweden is at 4-1, six teams are at 3-2, and a bunch, like Canada, at 2-3.
The poor Koreans, at 0-5, seem the likely only team out of it at this point.
I vaguely watched Canada lose to Scotland this morning.
US tomorrow afternoon!
My team - Norway- is among those at 3-2. And it's not even my perpetual favorite Dorte Nordby.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Canada versus Denmark at the Worlds

Well, I did not pay much attention until this morning, and I realized only then that TSN is broadcasting this live only online. Tape delay tonight but you guys I cannot do that.
What I find fascinating is that between ends, the tsn.ca broadcast goes dead silent. I really want to read that contract!
Anyway, Canada score 2 in the first end, something they could not do this morning (here in Canada) against Russia. I grant you they did steal one.

END #2: The middle of this end featured some really good shots. Kim Schneider's freeze was perfect. The Dane dislodging it was good. Later shots less so. Denmark did what it had to to take one in the second end.

In case anyone wonders, this is NO substitute for actual television coverage. That the world championship for women ranks below some useless NHL game (they have a million games to eliminate maybe a coupel of teams), and NASCAR is a pretty bad sign.

On the other hand, it really is a provilege to have Russ Howard doing the color commentary. He is superb.

END #3: Kim Schneider utterly buries a rock. Denmark wreck on a guard, and I am reminded that I will not see the Duponts this year. I always liked that Danish name.
Denmark try to bury and Holland decides on teh beter part of valor and draws to the four-foot.
CA 3 - DK 1

Why are the Danish women all dark-haired? Is this Henna gone crazy or is there some genetic force at loose in the land?

And I wish Russ Howard would talk about rocks lying where they are rather than laying. The latter just seems creepy.

END #4: I got dragged away in the middle but this end seemed a comedy of errors; not a single shot seemed to do what was hoped. In the end Denmark take one. And I have now noted that there is one Danish blonde.

This is not good. It seems we are in the sixth end. I know I did come in late.
So revise the end #s above up by one.

END #6: Canada in great shape after some great early freezes but a guard attempt comes too deep. Denmark give back a shot that does not make the hog-line. Canada do not profit immediately. Denmark post a guard. Holland's run-back is ineffectual. Denmark guard. Holland's draw attempt comes up way short and Denmark steal two.
DK 4 - CA 3

END #7: mostly a comedy of errors until Denmark's perfect last rock. Another short draw from Holland.
DK 6 - CA 3

END #8: Canada hit and stay for two after a very nice double by Denmark to reduce the threat.
DK 6 - CA 5

END #9: My mind wandered. And then TSN could not be persuadded to show me the match any more. And the WCF site with the scores was about as useless as it has been.

Well Denmark got one in 9 as I learn from WCF. TSN will not show me the end.

What a mess this sport is in.

BTW Denmark win 8-5 in the end.

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DSC? LSD? CM?

In the reports from the 2011 Women's World Curling Championships, there are numbers and abbreviations I can't figure out: On the leader board (i.e. standings), there is a column labelled "LSD". I doubt if they mean how much hallucinogenic drug the curlers are on, though one wonders when looking at the curling percentages.

And for each individual game, DSC and cm. I wonder if "cm" means centimetres in this context; maybe it tells how far the last shot was from the pin. Can anyone help?

By the way, curling percentages for Team Canada vs Russia were REALLY low: Kim Schneider curled only 54%, and Amber Holland curled only 68%. Unsurprisingly, Russia defeated Canada 9-4 in eight ends.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Morning Class

I learned about this nice institution over dinner before an evening session of the Brier.
Adriann Kennedy does a nice job explaining it.
Talk to people in the know at the Tim Hortons Brier, and they are apt to ask you the same question: “Have you been to Morning Classes?”
It is a quiet sensation, but if you know where to look, you will find a tradition that is as enduring as the event itself.
Go read the whole thing.

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Canada vs. China: Draw #2

As expected, I woke up in time to see a huge chunk of the opening draw at the 2011 Women's World Curling Championships from Denmark [oops, I just realized it's the opening draw for Canada, but there was an earlier draw that didn't include Canada]. TSN is showing this game, and I noticed right away that it is only Vic and Russ; Linda is not there.

Canada, skipped by Amber Holland of Saskatchewan, struggled through much of the game. Their play has reminded me of how they played in the Saskatchewan play-downs, missing shots all over the place. Part of the problem, as Vic and Russ point out, is that the ice is green and variable, as evidenced by the fact that China is missing quite a few shots as well. Also, early on, Russ mentioned that Holland's rocks seem seriously mismatched.

Early on, Holland missed a split. Later she came up way light on an open draw for three. Fortunately for Canada, the China skip missed a crucial shot in the sixth end, allowing Canada to hit and stick for 4, giving Canada a huge advantage for the game. But then China scored 2 in the seventh, and in the eighth, Holland's first shot undercurled to remove her own shot rock and tap China up, but Holland made a gentle angle raise to salvage one from the end and be up by two with two ends remaining.

More mistakes in the 9th and 10th ends led to China's scoring one in the 9th. Many more mistakes led to China splitting their rocks to lie two, forcing Holland to hit and roll to the button (excellent shot) to score one for the win.


Even though there were lots of curling mistakes on this sheet, I should point out that everyone on all the sheets seemed to struggle, trying to learn the ice and the stones. In fact of all the teams curling in this draw, Canada has the second-highest team percentage (more on curling percentages here). Most teams had substantially lower curling percentages.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More on TSN's telecasting schedule for the world championships

Why is TSN telecasting only one draw per day from the 2011 Women's World Curling Championship in Denmark (see this) when they are televising all of the draws involving the Canadian team from the Men's Worlds three weeks from now?

The TSN Men's Worlds schedule: [nuts! In case I didn't shrink the column widths properly, here's the link that shows all of TSN's scheduled curling telecasts.]

FORD WORLD MEN'S CURLING CHAMPIONSHIP - REGINA, SK

DATEMORNINGAFTERNOONEVENING
Apr 2-3:30pm (SUI)9:00pm (DEN)
Apr 3-3:00pm (GER)-
Apr 410:30am (KOR)-9:30pm (USA)
Apr 5-3:30pm (FRA)9:30pm (SCO)
Apr 610:30am (CZE)3:30pm (SWE)-
Apr 710:30am (CHN)-9:30pm (NOR)
Apr 8--9:30pm (PPG)
Apr 9-2:30pm (PPG)7:00pm (SF)
Apr 10--7:00pm (CF)

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Why Is TSN Telecasting only ONE GAME per Day from the Women's Worlds?

In a previous posting, I showed the TSN broadcast schedule for the 2011 Women's World Curling Championships in Denmark. It looks as if TSN will be telecasting only one game per day. They won't even be showing all the games Canada will be playing. Why is that? Were they unwilling to pay enough to secure the rights to the other games? Surely time cannot be a problem for the announcers since they do two games per day during the Scott and the Brier. Do they really think they will have bigger audiences from other shows?

If that broadcast schedule holds up, we will miss the following games involving Canada (times are EDT):
  • Sunday, 9am, Russia
  • Monday, 9am, Norway
  • Tuesday, 4am, Czech Republic
  • Wednesday, 2pm, Sweden
  • Thursday, 4am, Korea
The posted schedule for TSN's telecasts is very disappointing! Let's hope they change their minds.

For the full schedule of play, see this site.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

TSN Coverage of the 2011 Women's World Championship

The full list of coverage is available at this site. If you come up with backdoor access to any of the European sites where we might be able to watch more of the curling, please let us know.

Meanwhile, from that site, here is the list of telecasts planned by TSN next week.

TSN (Canada Only)
tsn.ca/curling/feature
DATETIME-EDTFeature Game
19.03.20110400-0700China v Canada
20.03.20111400-1700Denmark v Canada
21.03.20110400-0700Canada v Scotland
22.03.20111400-1700USA v Canada
23.03.20110900-1200Switzerland v Canada
24.03.20110900-1200Canada v Germany
25.03.20111400-1700Playoffs - Feature game 1
26.03.20110500-0800Playoffs - Feature game 2

1000-1300Semi Final
27.03.20110400-0700Bronze LIVE

0900-1200Gold/Final

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brier Final, Later Ends

END #6: MB force ON to draw for one but Howard comes up wekk short and MB steal two.
MB 6 - ON 2

END #7: MB start peeling guards.With two MB rocks in the rings, ON get a rock behind cover but it is third shot. Mead peels the cover. Hart hits one MB rock, leaving his shooter near the other. Stoughton hits one and rolls out. Howard hits and stays, sitting two. Stoughton hits and stays. The crowd is awfully enthusiastic for a potential deuce that still leaves hte gap at two. ON take two.
MB 6 - ON 4

END #8: ON maintaining guards in front of a rock of their in the house. MB peel the front one. ON come into the house with teh next rock, sitting beside a MB rock in the front of the eight-foot. Mead runs a MB guard back, removing one of the ON rocks, and moving the other into the open. Hart puts a rock into the house with MB backing, exposed though. Mead picks it out. ON freeze attempt bumps a little. Stoughton clears it and its backing. Howard draws almost behind cover (actually he hits and rolls). Stoughton makes a great hit and roll for two.
MB 8 - ON 4

END #9: ON get two.
MB 8 - ON 6

END #10: ON puts up some guards, as does MB and now the peeling starts. ON put a rock on the button behind cover. MB peel the center guard that was the cover. ON replace it. MB peel. We are now on third rocks. ON freeze to their own rock and Mead doubles them away. One more rock. ON freeze to a MB rock behind cover. MB peel the over. HOward freezes to his rock with a bump (and he lies only one as a result, not that it matters). MB hit and it is over.

Manitoba win the Brier.

Brier Final, Early Ends

Just settling in here in the JLC. My plan had been to watch from the comfort of home but the atmosphere yesterday was too much fun, so here I am again. I can catch up on sleep and rest tomorrow, waiting for the body shop to finish work on my car.

Manitoba have the initial hammer, coming from the 1-2 game.

END #1: After a few rocks, an exchange of hit and rolls, there is an MB corner guard, an ON possible biter behind it, and a MN rock partly covered. Howard raises the biter onto the MB rock, removing it and sitting. Stoughton hits and stays, feathering the ON rock outside the rings. Howard hits and leaves a biter. Stoughton gets the blank.
0-0

END #2: A series of mutual freezes on the center line help create a bit of a mess; Howard on his first rock sets up three ON rocks in front of a MB shot in the house. A Stoughton draw does not sufficiently bury. Howard hits and rolls into cover as shot. Stoughton makes a perfect tap for two.
MB 2 - ON 0

END #3: Mead cleans up the house but there is a bevy of guards. ON comes to the front four-foot behind center guards. Mead runs a guard back and removes the ON rock, leaving a MB rock behind cover. Hart hits and rolls but is still open. Stoughton hits and stays. Howard hits but rolls out. Stoughton draws to the four-foot; he also has a biter at the back. Howard drawing to four-foot against two for his one. He gets it.
MB 2 - ON 1

END #4: Rocks, mostly MB, line up in the four-foot. Hart opens things up a bit. Mead responds and MB lie three. Howard pops one MB rock and sits on another one, in the four-foot. Stoughton's draw comes up a bit short. Howard taps his own and rolls a tad to sit two. Stoughton picks one to keep Ontario to steal of one.
MB 2 - ON 2

END #5: MB have two counting rocks in the rings behind three ON rocks. MB poke one of those out. ON tap-back causes the tappee to roll out. MB tap it out and sit three. ON double out the front MB rocks. Stoughton has a draw for two.
MB 4 - ON 2

Both teams were lucky in that end.

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The Bronze Medal Game

As you probably guessed, neither Alan nor I was very enthusiastic about covering the bronze medal game between Alberta and Newfoundland/Labrador. I understand why it is played: it sells tickets and it generates some ratings that might be better than the ratings for anything else TSN would show. And it pays an extra $10K to the team that wins it, which is nothing to sneeze at, given the compensation in curling.

So I understand why it has been introduced. But it isn't a big thing in my mind --- about the same as the finals of some of the less significant spiels on the tour.

I'm back in Regina, now. I managed to get to the house here just in time to turn on the tv and see Martin concede to Gushue. I confess to being happy for Mark Nichols that his team at least won the bronze, but at the same time, as usual, I felt as if the media overdid that human interest story.

So now I'm relaxing, getting ready to watch tonight's final. I expect the joint will be jumpin'!

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Semi-Final, Final Ends

END #9: I got caught up in the crowd clapping, and making various odd calls. In the process Guhue got his two.
NL 6 - ON 6

END #10: NL center guard, ticked perfectly into irrelevance, as the ON rock goes into the rings. NL center guard - ticked into the rings, leaving an ON rock out front. NL come around the two ON rocks. ON freeze to it (small gap) as shot. NL center guard - jam concerns on peels now. ON peel, no jam.
NL center guard. ON peel, no jam. Nichols' guard attempt just makes it across the hogline; Russ Howard points out that jams are more likely from out there. ON peel, no jam. Gushue now sit on ON shot rock and become shot. ON come in beside that rock, ON now shot. NL want to hit and roll into the four-foot. His shot punches out the ON rock but sitss. Howard has an open hit and stick for the win. Here it comes. He gets it!
ON 7 - NL 6

And the place erupts again, for the second time.

One more night - Stoughton - Howard.

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